Chicago Cubs: Players set up for success against AL Central

As part of the league’s proposal, the NL Central would play within the division and the AL Central. Which Chicago Cubs are set up for success?

While we wait on the owners and MLBPA to seemingly agree on the number of games for the 2020 season, at least we know one item is for certain. In an effort to reduce the amount of travel – and thus exposure – to the coronavirus pandemic, MLB is proposing to realign the NL Central with the AL Central. So the Chicago Cubs would play their normal divisional opponents as well as crossover with the Twins, Tigers, Royals, Indians, and oh yes, the White Sox.

It seems like eons ago like the hottest topic was whether the Cubs would trade Kris Bryant. He will remain with the team at least through this year, and unless traded, next year with the hope that he and the Cubs can agree to a long-term extension. Through his first five years, Bryant has hit a cool .250 against the AL Central with five home runs and 15 RBI over a 39-game sample size. Unfortunately, he also has the most strikeouts (56) on the team since 2015.

Let’s look at the rest of the Cubs roster and see who has (or hasn’t) had success against the AL Central.

Jason Heyward: .214 AVG, 1 HR, 5 RBI

Ian Happ: .263 AVG, 3 HR, 8 RBI

Kyle Schwarber: .275, 11 HR, 28 RBI

Schwarber has been one of the most productive in terms of home runs and RBI. The majority of his production has come against the White Sox, hitting .263 with four bombs and 13 runs driven in. However, over smaller sample sizes, Schwarber has also had success against the Indians (.345 AVG, 3 HR, 6 RBI) and Tigers (.333 AVG, 3 HR, 5 RBI). He, of course, went off in the 2016 World Series, and his .471 batting average at Progressive Field is easily the best at any AL Central ballpark.

Javier Baez: .285 AVG, 5 HR, 18 RBI

Anthony Rizzo: .307 AVG, 9 HR, 34 RBI

David Bote: .308 AVG, 3 HR, 13 RBI

Willson Contreras: .320 AVG, 8 HR, 26 RBI

Who could forget Contreras’ granny off Lucas Giolito last year? And another in the bottom of the third inning.

Albert Almora Jr.: .342 AVG, 8 doubles, 8 RBI

What about Cubs pitchers?

I’m glad you asked because that’s a different story. Only Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks have a sub-4.00 ERA against AL Central opponents since 2015. And the turnover in the Cubs rotation and bullpen could be problematic this year as Jose Quintana has a 6.23 ERA against AL Central foes, while Tyler Chatwood sporting a 7.97 ERA. Not great, Bob.

Quintana is a fascinating story and could go down as one of the biggest trade regrets in Cubs’ history simply because of what they gave up to get him here. That said, don’t be surprised if the Cubs entertain the idea of bringing him back next year. He’s still just 31 years old and is a serviceable fourth or fifth starter.

Plus, for whatever reason, he pitches phenomenally against the Brewers – 2.87 career ERA and .207 average against, easily the best against any opponent.